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Adding Color to the Mouse Family and Other Studies

I thought I’d show you the progress on my illustration of the ‘mouse family’ and some other little studies.

(click on them for larger view)

Work in progress, adding watercolor to the ink drawing.

It looks so different than it did as just a pen and ink drawing! They are starting to come to life more with the added color and fur. I’ve been so busy with other things that this illustration is going slowly. What I did here I did in one evening while watching a movie, if I could just sit down one more time it’ll be finished. So she says!

I’ve run out of opportunities to paint from ‘real’ colored leaves as they’ve all gone to the dark side in my yard, they’re all brown and blackish. But I did take lots of reference photos and that will serve me well as usual. I have a decision to make about the leaf in the mommy’s hand, it blends in with her and the baby maybe a little too much? I may add a purpley maroon, something with alizarin crimson? I’ll be adding just a touch more color to the leaves but I don’t want them to overwhelm the mice either. I do like the touch of blue in the background, it helps to show the mushroom better.

Before I forget I’ll show you a little study I did after Beatrix Potter’s mushrooms.

Watercolor study after Beatrix Potter

It’s from a painting with more mushrooms but this little one and the grasses were all I needed to study the colors she used. This was great for me to do before diving into the color of my painting, especially because I wasn’t working outside from real life. I just love and adore her paintings!

A small watercolor study of Moneywort done in springtime.

This is a small study I did in the spring of Moneywort. It likes to grow in wet areas so my land is filled with the stuff! Wonderful in late spring as it covers itself with little yellow flowers; my ditches along the lane seem to be filled with gold! I don’t know if the name refers to the yellow flowers (like gold) or the round leaves looking like coins? I found out something interesting, it’s a native to Europe and was introduced to America for use as ground cover and as an indoor hanging plant. Ha! I never would have thought to use it inside!  Well anyways, I remember sitting in a lawn chair on a cold spring day, in a flooded area of my yard when I did this.  I watched the little Nursery Web Spiders scampering over the water and over the plants. How great it is to study from life! That’s why I love Nature Sketching so much.

Study of a small wildflower (weed) that grows in my grass.

And this is another favorite ‘weed’ I like that grows around anything not moving! haha…It seems to grow at the edge of everything but I don’t mind, it has tiny pretty flowers and neat rounded leaves that remind me of a tiny geranium. I haven’t yet looked it up, guess I should. Oh by the way, the bees love it! Don’t go killing everything that grows in your grass, as long as it’s green it looks fine! Look closer at some of those weeds, they can be pretty and the bees need them.

I just thought I’d show these because I feel it’s important to always study from real life. Even if it’s a tiny study done quickly, it will help you to look closer at what’s really there, and you will remember it. Especially when it comes to color, the photos you take will not be as accurate as what your eye sees at the time, in that lighting.

Well I hope you enjoyed seeing my progress and other studies. I’ve been playing around with adding some new colors to my watercolor field palette, so we’ll see how that goes. Leave me comments if you like, I always love hearing what you think!

Click the picture above to see another cute mouse painting I did! If you hover over it (in my shop) you can see an enlarged image.  Go to this link to see some other new children’s  illustrations in my shop!

Mouse Family in Ink

Though I’m working on illustrating a story with Teddy Bears at the moment, I just can’t leave behind my love of nature. I haven’t had much time for my usual nature studies but what I have been doing is testing out different papers to use for illustration. Arches, Fabriano, Canson…cold press, hot press, dual sided even!, they are all getting tried. I was surprised to find the ones I thought I’d love I hated and the cold press was feeling pretty nice. Cold press paper is rougher and can show nice textures when working with watercolors, but not as nice if you’re doing fine detail.

"The Mouse Family" in Windsor Newton Nut Brown Ink on Arches 140lb watercolor cold press paper.

(please click the pictures to see larger)

So I combined my experimenting with papers with wanting to draw some mice, my subject in many, many little children’s poems I’ve written. I want to keep a realism but cross the line into children’s illustration…make them a bit cute and giving them humanesque qualities.

Just showing the start of my drawing; I did it without a pencil sketch first!

I started by drawing freehand in permanent ink (no pencil sketch) this mouse on Arches 140 lb cold press paper. I used Windsor Newton Nut Brown, a really nice brown ink. (Forgive the yellow picture quality, I snapped this with my camera at night-time so I could record the stages of drawing.)

Windsor Newton Nut Brown Pernanent Ink

Then I went outside and grabbed up a bunch of leaves to add around it, and drew some of them.

my pile of leaves I first brought in to sketch from

What started all this was a cute sketch in ink of the mouse (mother) but she had to have some leaves to be tucked into. I brought in a good variety from the yard, they looked more colorful than this in the beginning. They all curled and dried but that’s ok, I like keeping some dried leaves around in a small box, for sketching.

Here it is on the easel, you can see my dip nib pen and brown ink there.

This is my set up, a small table easel that has a little drawer you can slide out. I like to put my watercolors there and anything else I might be using to draw. You can see my bottle of ink and my small ‘dip nib pen’ laying there. I have my paper on a piece of plexiglas. This is great to use when you are tracing a sketch onto ‘good’ paper, just go over your sketch with dark ink, put good paper on top, stick a lamp behind and sketch lightly with pencil. I didn’t do that with this drawing, as I said, I just started in and the drawing grew.

Here’s a picture of my “dip nib pen”.

Small "dip nib pen" with a little study after Beatrix Potter's Dormouse in the background.

You can see my two favorite pens here, when I want to use loose dip ink that is. I just love the detail I can get with this little nib! There’s something nice about using loose ink. I decided I liked when it ran out of ink regularly, it gave me a pause to check my drawing and think before making marks!

Just a little more drawn in...

As I drew the mouse I started to think maybe it could become a story, so I felt I needed to leave the area in front of it open to possibilities. *Very important when working with permanent ink to take your time and plan a bit!

A little close up of the mother mouse and baby.

I was going to put a grasshopper in because they are everywhere in the grass right now, but I decided on a baby mouse. At this point I started sketching with pencil…the rest of the leaves, mushrooms and babies, because now it had become an actual illustration to NOT mess up! haha. You can see I changed the mouses face, added an open mouth, eyes a bit bigger with lashes, just a touch! I’m looking for my ‘mousy style’.

And a close up of the other little baby mouse!

And you know with mice…where there’s one there’s many!…so I added this baby on the right. It’s good for the composition because it leads your eye around the page. Keep this in mind too when arranging your leaves, all the curves, waves and curls can really be exciting to draw and look at as they lead your eye around the composition.

Below are a few photos of what inspired me to keep adding to my drawing.

baby nursery web spider

I’m fascinated by the Nursery Web Spiders in my yard. In spring I see them living half under water and half above, then all summer they have their webs in the tall grasses on the lanes. Now as I walk through my yard in fall I see tiny baby spiders darting across the leaves everywhere!  I couldn’t wait to sneak them into an illustration!

I liked the twist of this leaf so I used it in my drawing

Well these leaves aren’t colorful but I love the curve of the big one, and the other small one fit in nice. You can see them on the right side of my drawing. I used this photo on my computer screen when I drew these leaves.

dead fall leaves in the grass

This is another one I added on the right side by the baby mouse. I tried not to go too heavy adding the shadows, since the leaves were all photographed at different angles in the sun. I also looked at this on my tiny computer screen while drawing, late into the night!

little golden mushrooms in the grass

One day when I was walking through the yard I spotted an area of mushrooms, each were about 2″ across at least. They blended in so well I almost didn’t notice them at first, but looking for “things in the grass” for my drawing they were a nice find. It wasn’t until the next day I went out to photograph them and they were all gone! I searched and searched and finally started noticing these tiny mushrooms around under blades of grass. NO, my lawn is NOT neatly mowed, I’m lucky when my son comes and gives it a cut, so I get all kinds of things growing and hiding in the long grass!

more tiny little golden mushrooms

I love looking at mushrooms, though I admit I don’t know too many species names. If anyone can tell me what these are I’d be grateful (Western NY-wet area)

This is the small Ink Cap mushroom I used after the first one disappeared

This one was the best find! It’s a Shaggy Ink Cap mushroom and I’ve never seen one here before, I’ve only ever seen them when I was in Ireland and England. One day I spotted a big one growing in the yard, I wasn’t able to get out to photograph it until the next day. To my great disappointment it had all but disappeared! I never saw one ‘roll up’ as fast as that! For those who have never seen this, the mushroom will start to roll up from the bottom, disappearing until just the top is left, surrounded by a black inky goo. It’s really quiet interesting and yuchy at the same time!

But lucky me, walking my laps around the yard the next day I spotted this small one growing not far from the other spot. So I grabbed my camera right away and got some good shots. I couldn’t wait to use it in my drawing and already knew it would be perfect as a backdrop.

"The Mouse Family" Ink on Arches watercolor paper.

So there you have it, all the parts together! Now that I’ve scanned it, I can play around with watercolors on it and we’ll see how that goes! Please visit my shop to see the Note Cards and Gifts I made using this and other photos in this post. I’ll add a few picture links you can click to visit it, please please share my shop links with friends once you get there! 🙂

Glossy Note Card with plain white background
Glossy Note Card with changeable text and brown background
Customizable Mug
Shaggy Ink Cap Glossy Note Cards
Hope you enjoyed my post! Please leave me comments and share on your Facebook or Pinterest pages!

Spider in the Garden

Now I’ll freely admit, I’m WAY behind on my blog posting! I was doing so well at sketching all the time in my journal this summer and getting out for walks in my fields then sharing it with you, but life has been so busy this winter. I’ve been in Northumberland England the past few months and though I didn’t get as many paintings and sketches done as I would have liked, I do still have sketches and photos to share here. So I’ll try to post them even though they’re a little ‘old’!

This one is about a short walk to the ‘local’ castle, church and a spider in my front yard.

Stone steps into the churchyard, access for people but not for sheep!

Just down the road there’s a Church, St. John the Baptist, built in the 11c, and sometimes I go have a walk around the churchyard. My boyfriend doesn’t know why I think this is interesting but I’m just amazed at how old the gravestones are. I read the names and dates and think of the real people who lived long ago in this village.

Gate latch at the church

I love looking at old gates and this one is especially cool, the metal clasp lifts up so you can swing the gate open. Think of all the people over hundreds of years that have walked this path, maybe not the same gate but it’s been around awhile!

Meet Me There carving on gravestone

This is a popular carving theme on stones, the finger pointing upwards; I just love drawing banners too so I had to sketch it. It’s permanent ink pen, the date on this stone was 1900.

Gate to the castle

This picture was taken just next to the church, the gate on the left goes down a grassy lane to the castle in the distance, the one on the right goes into the farmers field, we won’t go that way! You can see an old viaduct in the distance, that used to be for a small railway that ran through this little town, I wish it was still here. The hills you see in the distance I climbed up with Gary, right to the top and oh what a view! Then we walked all the way back down and came over that viaduct and back to where I shot this picture. That was a looong walk for me!

Edlingham Castle

There’s the castle, not far now. This is Edlingham Castle built in the 12th c. On either side of the grassy path there are usually sheep or cows, remember the red cows I sketched not long ago? Here’s a link to Wikipedia about Edlingham Castle.

Edlingham castle ruins

You can walk all around this castle ruins for free, I like trying to imagine the original layout of it. You can see the viaduct in the background and the crags on the hill above that.

Spider in the garden

So I knew you’d be wondering, what about that spider you mentioned? Well when I got back from my stroll I discovered a spider in the front yard clinging to an old leaf and stem. Now I had to squat down and lean in really close to take this picture, I hope you appreciate how close I got to this spider to take it’s picture! I think spiders are really interesting but I still get scared of them and don’t want to touch them! shudder….

Spider sketch and poem

It had a web woven attached to it. I did a tiny sketch while crouched down to look at it, and I wrote the poem in bed one night after.  I thought his web was like window panes in the air. Here’s the poem:

“Spider in the Garden”

Spider in the garden
What do you see?
A world through a web
Where we are all free.
 
Through your silver floss
Little windows in the air,
You watch us ignoring you
As if we didn’t care.

Mary McAndrew

October, 11, 2011

Blackbird eating berries

I’ll leave you with one more picture, a Blackbird (female) eating berries in the tree.

“Swallow Hollow” Iroqouis Wildlife Refuge 8-12-08

What a day I had at the Swallow Hollow nature trail, part of the Iroqouis Wildlife Preserve. The above photo was just one of the many beautiful scenes I saw that day; the trail follows the water in a nice loop, sometimes going through woods, mostly near the marsh or some natural looking water canals. Much of the trail is a boardwalk to keep you up from the very wet ground, especially after such a rainy summer!

This is a picture of my new sketchbook cover, it’s a sketchbook that I designed and made myself with a long format. I thought it’d be fun to put some pictures of my paintings on the cover, to show people I meet some of my work. I can add or take pages from the sketchbook as I want to.

This is the first page of my sketchbook from my day out. I stopped at a nice area in the Tonawanda Wildlife Management area, Elizabeth Hilldurger Estate project. I was so happy to see two Great Egrets (or in my old Peterson guide American Egret) flying around. The one roosted in a tree far away, I tried to do some little sketches by looking through my binoculars.
The watercolor of the water scene I did using my little watercolor ‘altoids’ field kit and just a water-brush. It’s pretty simple looking but I did it quickly while standing up.

This is me pausing to sketch along the boardwalk. You can see I have my art kit bag on my waist and a backpack with other supplies on my back. Almost all of what I draw, I draw while I’m standing and looking at things.
Along the way on my walks I usually meet some nice people who are curious about what I’m doing. I met a couple walking their dogs, Papillions…Pudgie is the puppy furiously digging the hole in the back…Max is the one gazing up at his owner. Maybe this is the kind of dog I should get to keep me company in the house? I’ve seen them before and thought about it. Their owner told me Papillion means butterfly in french….well at least it’s their names meaning, I guess because of how they look with their ears perked.

Next is another page from my sketchbook, click it to see it closer. I met a little Leopard frog along the way and did quick little sketches of him, then painted it at home using metallic watercolor paints. He really had a metallic look to his skin, so beautiful! At the end of this post you’ll see a little video clip of him!

I saw many Harvestman spiders in the woods and did a sketch of one on a dying milkweed leaf. I also took photos so when I got home I was able to paint it with watercolors. I took step by step photos of the painting, perhaps I’ll get to post it separately later.
I did some reading about Harvestmen Spiders, which are only distantly related to spiders, they are not venomous, lack fangs and do not bite. They use their legs to walk, breath, smell and capture prey! There are 5,000 species, about 235 known in North America, most are drab brown or grey, but a few are rusty red, mottled spots or have a stripe down their back. Now that I know that, I know I was lucky to see a rusty red one, and the one I painted had a mottled kind of dark stripe on it. One more interesting detail to keep my eyes open for while hiking! I hope you take a closer look next time you meet one.


This next page shows a light pencil sketch I did of the path, I also took some photos so later I could color it in. I haven’t gotten that far yet! The mushrooms at the bottom of the page I went specifically to Swallow Hollow to try to find again and paint, I saw them there just a week before. I could use some help indentifying them if anyone has expertise in this area?? I have become fascinated with mushrooms and fungi…when you walk in the woods, just take a close look at the ground or on trees or dead logs, you’ll be surprised at what you might discover! I’ve seen gorgeous yellow or orange mushrooms that I didn’t expect. The picture of the orange mushroom I could use help identifying too.

I set up my stool in the woods and I painted this study from life. It was difficult because the lighting kept changing, first direct, raking light, then very dark shadows. As I painted a Harvestmen Spider crawled across my sketchbook, pausing over my painting to ‘taste’ the wet paint! Before I could get my camera, he crawled off down my leg….he being a spider that he was I helped him hurry off me! I don’t mind them too much, but don’t want them lingering. At least I can say, knowing they are harmless helps me not to react like Little Miss Muffet! Remember her story?

This is the last page from my outing…while I was in the field I sketched the tiny mushrooms in pencil…kneeling in the pine needles to gain a closer look. They’re done at life size. Then while walking later I went over the lines with a sepia colored Micron Permanent ink pen. Later at home I printed out the photos I took of them and added the watercolor. I have found that when I do something in graphite pencil in the field, I get disappointed at how it will smear or fade with all the use the sketchbook gets, so I like to use my micron pens a lot to draw.

The while fungus is fascinating…they are hard to notice…you might just step right past them, but you have to be aware of everything and look everywhere when you walk. These are also drawn at life size, aproximately 2″ tall and coming up like delicate white filaments from the forest floor. A mystery to me, if anyone can tell us please do.

The butterfly was a type I saw all day, following me it seemed, to see what I was doing in their woods? I sketched it in the field on a leaf, but later painted it from a photo. Can anyone help me with identifying it?

I added a short video clip of my meeting with the Leopard Frog along a sunny path, check it out!

Hiking on my Land, “Long Lane Farm”

Today I went for a hike with my dog Ginger, the weather was so warm I couldn’t resist! I think the temperature today reached 66 degrees! It’s very breezy, clouds and patches of sun. So we wandered and I pretty much descibed things on my journal pages. Just click on the pics of my sketchbook to read my notes and see the small sketches. This first page I did a very quick sketch (7 minutes), click on it.

This is a photo of me and Ginger, I set my tiny Olympus FE 230 digital camera on top of the fence post and did an auto timer shot. I have my mud boots on, my small three legged stool over my shoulder, and an over-size fanny pack from LL Bean.
I wasn’t sure about wearing the fanny pack in front,because I thought it’d make my back hurt, but actually it was ok. It was nice to have it right in front of me to keep tucking my sketchpad and pens into as I walked. My cell phone is clipped to my belt loop.

Page 2 of the journal…I found this great moss…so green for such a dreary time of year. It was growing all over the bottoms of the trees, it’s very wet on my land.

‘Memory Lane’ is so flooded I didn’t dare go there with leaky boots! But it still looks beautiful, all that water reflecting the sky, dry grasses, great color.

Page 3…I was picking up some dried oak leaves to take back home with me and saw a small spider on one leaf. It was so cool, looked like a little seed if you look quick. I did three little quick studies of it. It keeps raining off and on and I don’t have my rain coat.

Golden Field…

This is my three legged stool I bought at Walmart in the hunting/fishing dept. This stool is great but when the ground is wet…um, well you kind of sink in when you sit on it!

This is the back side of a fern stem, the tiny leaves are actually curled up and look like seeds. I think it’s a ‘Sensitive Fern’.